Here’s something to think about: When was the last time you drove a car? To be specific, a small hatchback.
Sure, you may think that certain cars should be removed off of the highway. I beg to differ. You see, there are situations in life where a small hatchback – around, say, 155 inches in length, would actually be a perfect vehicle.
Sadly, there are only a few of these left.
We’re talking a car that can park almost anywhere in the heart of the city. A car that could shuttle you to the stores in a small town. A car that you rather get great fuel economy and just enough space for luggage or your gig set-up going between cities.
If this sounds like your kind of car, then you might want to consider the 2021 Mitsubishi Mirage.
Yes, I said it! The small wonder from Mitsubishi and the only vehicle sold in this country that is built in Thailand. It is one of two cars in a mostly SUV lineup for the three-diamond brand.
For 2021, the Mirage receive some much needed updates that will make it even more worthy of your budget constraints. The application of the Dynamic Shield design language simply catapulted the Mirage from bland to very, very nice! The grille is more prominent, as are the headlamps. There’s more chrome that gives that shine you often do not associate with subcompact cars.
Out back, the Mirage receives a sportier rear bumper and new LED taillights. You might say that it looks more aggressive from the rear. The rest of the Mirage hatchback remains the same with four wide opening doors and a good hatch for easy access to the cargo space.
My tester is a new special edition with a sporty appearance package. The Carbonite Edition adds carbon-fiber-like trim on the B-Pillar and on the rear bumper trim. There are these black ground-effects-like extensions on both bumpers and the lower side with red trim to make them pop. I just wished they increased the wheel size from 14 inches to 15 with wider tires. The tire set on the top-of-the-line SE model would fill the wheel areas better.
The one tenet that the Mirage hatchback (and its sedan version, the G4) has is a very simple-to-use instrument panel. You have two analog dials with a small LCD information screen for multiple readouts. The third “dial” is for some functional and warning lights. The center console is minimal with just cup holders and the shifter. The automatic climate control and cruise control are a couple of nice touches for a car in its class.
A seven-inch touchscreen is now standard on all Mitsubishi Mirages. You can integrate your smartphone with this screen, making it one of the easiest and most robust system for its price point. Its four speakers provided good sound throughout the cabin.
The front seats of the Mirage hatchback are bigger than you would expect in a subcompact. These soft-material cloth seats offer ample comfort with manual adjustments.
As a hatchback, you get 17.1 cubic feet of space with the rear seats up. You will have to remove the cargo cover to fully achieve that volume figure. The rear seats fold down for longer items, but those items will have to clear a “step-up” to get them in properly. There are other solutions for the Mirage to carry more stuff. All you have to do is get really creative.
The Mirage is still powered by a 78-horsepower 1.2-liter three-cylinder engine connected to a continuously variable transmission, driving the front wheels. This combination is a strong driveline, providing ample acceleration and cruising on the highway. Where it shines the most is on the streets of your town. It makes the crosstown shopping spree a fun adventure. Getting around traffic is no problem in the Mirage.
While I’m managing traffic, I returned a fuel consumption average of 40.4 MPG.
No matter if I’m running across the Twin Cities or over to one of the grocery stores I usually shop at, the Mirage’s suspension is designed to handle the rough spots quite easily. The suspension works overtime to provide a smooth ride while absorbing the worst roads in town. Its size and light weight also means that the Mirage can maneuver extremely well to avoid hazards and to manage corners.
Maneuverability starts with a great electric power-assisted steering system. This system offers a tight turning radius and great feedback to the wheels. On-center feel is much better than any vehicle in its class, keeping within the lane with a solid weight at the wheel. Brakes are also very responsive with good pedal feel right down to a front disc/rear drum set-up. The result is confident stopping power applied to a car that weighs just 2,095 pounds!
One bit of feedback I wanted to express here. The 165/65R14 tires with its alloy wheels ride just fine. However, I just wished they filled out the wheel areas, including the sill extensions. You can swap them out for a wider, 15-inch tire/wheel package after you buy this car. Or, you can simply step up to the SE model, where you do get wheels and tires that fit the Mirage perfectly.
How much would you pay for this Carbonite Edition of the 2021 Mirage? According to the sticker, that price came out to $18,660. My recommendation is to go for the SE model, which is at least $55.00 more before you start adding a more items to the bill. For example, the Rockford Fosgate audio system upgrade is $595. Even with that add-on, you can get with a Mirage for under $19,500.
For context, a basic ES hatchback starts at $14,295 with a manual transmission.
Some might dismiss the 2021 Mitsubishi Mirage for various reasons. It is tiny. It is not as safe as other cars. It is not as powerful as other cars. It is not a high quality vehicle. And so forth.
However, when I pointed out how one Mirage hatchback achieved over 400,000 miles on the clock, I wanted to let you know that, yes, this Thai-produced little car is as durable as you can get. Not to mention that I had a chance to know some of its most loyal owners to prove this point over and over again.
When you really need a car and want to have some fun, you don’t have to spend over $20,000 for it. Get a 2021 Mitsubishi Mirage hatchback and laugh all the way to the bank – especially the one that is carrying your car note.
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by White Bear Mitsubishi, White Bear Lake, MN
All photos by Randy Stern